Death, Maiming, Wolves and the HSUS

The Wolf Known As OR7, photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS

It has been a while since I posted and for that I apologize. The primary reason was that I did not want publish a post that was not uplifting and positive, so close to Christmas.

Four weeks ago I helped bury a dear friend and had to put a mare down who broke her leg, in the middle of the field, with no holes around, apparently from running, or being chased. Then, three days later, one of our mares, who had just foaled, was killed by either a mountain lion or bear and a cow was killed on the same night, perhaps by a pack of coyotes or the same lion or bear.

'Xxyzax' and her 2010 Foal 'Belle'

Needless to say, I was not in the best frame of mind to write a post that was fitting the Christmas season.

It is extremely frustrating and infuriating for me to see and experience the loss of livestock on a regular basis, knowing that it could have been prevented.

Thanks to the Humane Society of the United States, not to be confused with your local humane societies, the hands of ranchers, farmers and the agencies responsible for managing wildlife have been tied. In 1990 they worked  to get proposition 117 passed, making it illegal to hunt mountain lions, then again in 1996 they worked to get proposition 197 voted down, which would have allowed the hunting of mountain lions to return. In 1998 they successfully saw proposition 4 pass, which made it illegal to use traps, snares and poisons to defend against predators.

Removing the ability to prevent and deter predators makes as much sense as making it illegal to install burglar alarms in homes and businesses.

Making it illegal to shoot a predator (lion or wolf) until after it has maimed or killed livestock is likened to allowing the armed intruder in your home to harm you or your families before you are allowed to shoot them.

As events would unfold, just a week after the loss of our mare and cow, a reporter, Bettina Boxall, @latenvironment on twitter,  from the LA Times called to interview me on my thoughts regarding the reintroduction of the wolf to California; ‘A Lone Wolf Heralds The Return of A Mythic Predator.’ I explained to her that it would be catastrophic mistake to reintroduce another predator to the state without the ability to effectively defend, deter and control the additional threat that it brings.

After reading through some of the comments on the article that Ms. Boxall wrote and comments on other related articles, there a couple of points I would like to address.

First, the suggestion to sterilize the wolves does not address the issue. The wolves are not having intercourse with livestock; they are killing and maiming them.

Second, the idea that one rogue male does not present a problem is false. Male coyotes will mate with dogs, male wolves will mate with dogs and coyotes. The result will be a hybrid that shares an appetite for meat, plain and simple.

Third, some have mentioned utilizing watchdogs as a deterrent, which does work in some instances. However, when we are dealing with multiple packs, one will draw the dogs away, while another moves in. Likewise, a lion or bear will wait for the dogs to chase a coyote and then move in. Additionally, when livestock owners are grazing on multiple leases and not on a home place, dogs are not the best option.

Fourth, some have suggested that we simply chase them away when we see them. I am not sure how to explain this, but predators most often make their kills at night and farmers and ranchers need their sleep.

Fifth, it has been mentioned by several that ranchers just cannot accept that it is possible to co-exist with wolves, lions and other predators. Back in the 70’s and 80’s co-existence did occur, but we had tools and options available to control predators and lion’s, bears and coyotes feared humans. With the limitations put in place, thanks to the HSUS and the ESA (Endangered Species Act), the fear of humans has been lost, balance is gone. Additionally, due to environmental regulations, timber harvesting has been halted, forests are overgrown, meadows have disappeared and the feed for deer and elk is now only available on the valley floor, among the livestock.

Sixth, many were saying that the re-introduction of the wolf to California was highly unlikely. On December 28, the male wolf, know as OR-7, crossed the border. Does this qualify as re-introduction? See my response on point two.

Finally, some have also suggested that the government should pay ranchers for their losses to predators. There used to be an indemnification program, however, it far from being a help. For example, the cow that we lost was seven years old. Considering our herd average she had at least eight more years of production. Out of the eight calves she would have had, figure half would have been bulls and half heifers. Assuming that half of her calves would have been replacement quality and half marketed at weaning that puts an estimated value on that cow at roughly $14,000. Through the indemnification program offered by the USDA, I could have received a payment for $50; which does not even cover the fuel cost to drive to the office and file the paperwork, let alone the time.

Having said that, is a payment program the answer? In my opinion no, it is not. I would never suggest a payment plan to cover death, injury, bodily harm, assault or theft resulting from a home invasion either. Give us the opportunity to protect our property and our livestock, not financial platitudes.

As we enter the New Year, I pray that we are able to restore some commonsense and sanity to the regulations confronting ranchers and farmers. I also encourage all of you who may be supporting the HSUS to stop and send your money and resources to your local humane shelter.

God Bless and Happy New Year!

  1. December 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Great article—-as regards the use of livestock protection dogs, here’s the reality for them when wolves come around—

  2. December 30, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    Jeff, wow,what a powerful article! How do you get it into the right hands,or would it matter? I’m so sorry to hear of the additional losses. Must be heartbreaking both financially and personally. The only wild life I’ve ever felt threatened by in this area,(aside from snakes),were coyotes. There were a pack of 15 or 20 that hung around the area. I talked to the local men about hunting them, and finally after they killed a girl’s 4-H hog they went after them. I don’t see them any more. I was told that some people brought the first ones here to train their hunting dogs on. When they no longer needed them,they were turned loose. Nice. I was told they follow,( just as i suppose your predators do),the deer, so I shouldn’t feed or encourage the deer to hang around. I don’t, but I’ve found, as you stated about the wild life, the deer are not afraid of humans. I can shoo them, and they just look at me. Again I’m sorry about what happened. If starting a petition would help, I would be glad to sign it, or sending letters,I can do that. Just let me know. In the mean time you guys be careful! I hope you have a Happier New Year! Later, Alyse 🙂

  3. December 30, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Thanks Doug, I wish 1/2 our politicians had your common sense. I love animals but there is a fine line and ranchers, farmers and the publics rights should come first. We had a mountain lion walk down our driveway (I’m 2 miles out of town), at 9:30 in the morning. I was told I could not shoot it although we have a two grandsons, age 2 and 5 who ride their motorcycles, bikes etc. around our house on weekends. If you see my name in the headlines you’ll know its because I killed him before he killed them, then I will sue the organizations that do not allow me to live safely! : 0)

  4. Todd
    December 31, 2011 at 6:22 AM

    Thanks for your article. Even over here on the east coast your points are (or should be) obvious, but can be hard to discern through the avalanche of HSUS type media. At its core Americans are being told that they cannot protect their livestock (livelihood) and will be punished for doing so. Not the America I stand up for.

  5. Gabriele
    December 31, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I find the main problem with this article is that it assumes that animals have value only instrumentally in their forwarding of human satisfaction. The balance between ranchers and predator animals that the author claims to have existed was no balance at all as it was clearly in favour of the rancher.

    I also find it incredible frustrating that the author likens a predator attacking a ranch’s animals to a human intruder. There are massive fundamental moral differences between the two.

    Finally, it also seems to be the case that there is the assumption that predator animals have less right to exist in these areas than humans do and that they are pests. It is strange then that the human population is doing much better for itself than these pests, some of whom should be seeing extinction some time in the near future.

    • January 3, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      Wow, Gabriele, you missed the point completely! The author is trying to point out that he is unable to even defend his property (animals included) from these attackers that, with each new generation, become more bold in their attacks because they see no fear associated with their attacks on domestic animals. It’s clear you have never lived in a rural area where these threats pose a danger to small children and even adults engaged in recreational activities. Look into what happened several years back in Orange County where bikers were attacked, one killed, while in a wilderness park area that tolerated mountain lions. This is never a good mix, especially when human life is threatened. Ranchers need the tools to protect their animals just as we need the tools to protect our homes, and these predators need to learn that domestic animals are not their primary source of food supplies.

  6. Kim
    January 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Thank you for crafting one of the better responses I have seen on this issue. You were both classy and logical in your response vs. the scare tactics typically employed to get the greater urban population to see things your way. I do myself believe that wolves have a right to exist, however I also believe you have a right to defend your property, which puts us at a crossroads because of the “shoot, shovel and shut up” tactic widely used while the ESA is still putting a halt on endangered species bans being lifted, via the left-wing animal rights activists.

    The only area I disagree with you on is this: wolves breeding with coyotes. One of the major lessons learned from the re-intro to Yellowstone was that in suppressed populations, wolves would tolerate coyotes. In successful wolf populations, coyotes packs were either destroyed or driven from their hunting grounds. They do not co-exist naturally.

    I have not seen any data on the Canadian Grey Wolf inter breeding with pet dogs, so I am left with the conclusion that Canadian Grey Wolves are just BIG.

    I am so very sorry for your loss of mare and cow. That is tough for sure.

  7. April 25, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    I know that it has been awhile since you wrote this but it is still powerful. I understand how important livestock is to a farm family; coming from one myself. I never looked at how if you filed the paperwork to get money back on lost livestock. It would be such a huge lose. That was an amazing fact to me.Thanks for your info.

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